By Paul Gable
One thing that has become consistent in the City of Myrtle Beach over recent years is the law will be applied inconsistently. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are that matters.
The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution guarantee due process and equal application of the law to both federal and state jurisdictions.
But not in Myrtle Beach!
The city is currently being sued by business owners in the city for violating the owners’ rights guaranteed by the Constitution and those amendments with what the city calls its Entertainment Overlay District.
Inside that district, businesses are prohibited from selling legal products such as CBD oils and Vape accessories with the threat of having their business licenses revoked and the business being closed down.
Those same products are sold in other areas of the city without any restriction or harassment by city officials.
Most, if not all, of these businesses are beachwear stores owned by Jewish businessmen, which brings in other issues to the lawsuit in the form of violations of the Civil Rights Act and discrimination.
City officials have said these restrictions were put in place by city ordinance in an effort to make the district “family friendly” – the city’s favorite buzzword.
However, there have recently been three raids on two hotels within the same district for the sale of illegal drugs on the properties, you know heroin, cocaine and those types of evidently “family friendly” drugs, with no threat to business licenses.
There is no indication that the owners or operators of those hotels were involved in the illegal activity, but that hasn’t stopped the city from closing down businesses as “nuisances” for similar activity in the past – Natalia’s Bar and Grill in the Superblock area comes quickly to mind.
Natalia’s was closed down by the city in December 2016 as a nuisance for activities such as drug sales that occurred outside the building but in the near vicinity. One month later, the city owned the property.
I daresay if one of the targeted beachwear stores had been raided for drugs being sold in the parking lot, the owner and employees would have been arrested, the business license revoked and the property probably seized.
However, the owners of the hotels involved are part of the “Untouchables” of Myrtle Beach serving or having served on things like the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation board or the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce board.
And therein lies the difficulty. Laws are applied not because of what is done, but rather who is doing it and where it is done. Certain people appear to get preferential treatment from city officials while others get the “hammer.”
In 2017, city voters went to the polls and three new members of council were elected, but change has not come to the city – different cast but same story line.
In 2019, another election with three council seats up for grabs will occur. Hopefully change will come with a new story line, one that looks for ways to improve the city as a whole, rather than allowing a few to enrich themselves at the expense of the many.
Change began in the county after last year’s election, but the “Old Guard” is resisting with all its resources. Change in the city will be fought just as hard, but it can be just as promising for city residents if the “Old Guard” is thrown out.